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Experts: Obama likely to discuss jobs during Cedar Rapids visit

BY CHASTITY DILLARD | JANUARY 25, 2012 7:20 AM

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Several experts say President Obama's visit to the Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing company in Cedar Rapids today may be motivated by a push for job creation.

"Our unemployment rates were well lower than the national average before it did go up, but it still was not as much as the national average," said John Solow, a University of Iowa associate professor of economics. "It's improving, and Iowa is in better shape than other states are."

In December, Iowa's unemployment levels dropped to 5.6 percent — lower than the national rate of 8.5 percent, according to the Iowa Workforce Development.

Obama's visit to the factory — which mainly produces stainless-steel equipment for food and grain industries — will launch a five-state, three-day tour.

"A key factor in our success has been the general work ethic in this area and state," said Graig Cone, the plant's co-owner. "I think Iowa work ethic is very high … and this is just a prime area for our company, and I think that's why we have been successful."

The company employs 80 workers from around the Cedar Rapids area, Cone said. The equipment is mainly used by companies in the food and ethanol industry both statewide and across the nation.
Frederick Boehmke, a UI associate professor of political science, said there may be other reasons for Obama to begin his tour in Iowa.

"Iowa extended a lot of attention from the caucuses," he said. "It's something somewhat symbolic to come back to Iowa since Iowa successfully jump-started his campaign four years ago."

Boehmke said presidents often use the State of the Union Address to lay out their agenda for the remaining term and re-election.

"The timing is just a reflection of the symbolic beginning of his re-election campaign," he said.

And choosing this business in particular may be a way to highlight manufacturing jobs, Boehmke said.

Economically, Iowa has not suffered as severely from the recession in comparison with other states, Solow said. The economy is getting better — just not very quickly.

"The biggest question is maintaining economic growth and accelerating economic growth so that the economy comes out of the recession and so that unemployment drops and people return to jobs," he said.

MORE: Obama urges U.S. colleges to halt tuition increases


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